There are good days. There are not so good days.
Sometimes I suddenly am aware with a gut-wrenching force that I am more than a quarter of a century along and I don’t know how to be happy, I don’t have any answers at all and I am still trying to figure out what questions I even ought to be asking. Far enough away from childhood and youth that the process of living it can now be picked apart, bit by bit, shoved under the omphaloskeptic microscope. Turns out that’s painful. Turns out the process of turning into someone I want to be when I don’t even really know who I’ve been and who I was feels a bit like trying to build a snowman out of ash. You think you are forming a shape and then you move away and there it goes, invisible in the wind. And it’s like, why am I doing this work when next year I’ll feel like a totally different person again anyway.
Turns out too that when you’ve spent twenty-plus years trying to be something for someone else, that when you strike the “else” and that “someone” becomes yourself it’s exhausting, impossible, isolating. I don’t know how to live for myself and I don’t know how to talk to people anymore when what they think they’re going to hear out of my mouth is so different from what’s at the back of my throat. Somehow somewhere as it’s sliding over the tongue and through my lips it turns into banalities. “So what’s new for you?” “Nothing much. I sprained my finger.” I sprained my fucking finger?
How about this: I have a part-time job that puts me under the poverty line and I have ideas, a lot of them, about community and sustainability but I don’t have the resources or the know-how to make it happen and I’m in love with two people in totally different ways and I want to do sex work to help make ends meet and I waste a lot of time and I am so full of self-doubt it brings me to tears on bad days and I eat nutella out of the jar on a regular basis and I am sick most days and I don’t know how to have sex and not have it be sex-after-rape and I might not ever go back to school and I might not ever get married and I might not ever own a fucking house and I might have family that looks a whole lot different than is imaginable to just about everyone and my politics might not make any sense to anyone except myself.
Someone wrote to me a few weeks ago and asked me, what are the daily consequences for you of being a rape survivor? How does it affect your daily life? Here’s a thing, and it’s about more than rape but that has a lot to do with it: I keep walls behind me; I face doors at all times. I sit on the inside. I tuck myself in corners and against walls so that I can see anything and everything that might be coming at me and it is my life’s work to pull myself out of the corner and into the middle of the room where it feels like I have to spin so so so fast spin spin spin just to keep an eye on the 360-degree 3-D world surrounding me. And recently when I was talking to friends about self-destructive habits and patterns we have to work hard to keep ourselves from, the one, for me, is curling up and crawling into a fully-enclosed, iron-encased space where I am protected at all angles from things that be. My form of destruction is keeping myself so safe from everything that I become invisible, that I evaporate. Willing myself to untuck unfold, peeling myself off the floor away from the wall out of the corner is sometimes all I feel capable of in a day and those are the days that leave me spinning. Sometimes I get to the middle of the room and plant two feet down and it’s all my force to stay put. Good days — of which there are many, don’t get me wrong — are days when I can keep myself busy in the middle of the room and forget, for a bit, that I’m not watching out behind me.
Of course this is just an obnoxious extended metaphor but it also is the rhythm of my life and there are times I feel it crushing me. I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m depressed; of course there are times I wallow and feel nothing but most of the time I feel exhilarated or I feel obliterated or I feel something in between. I’m busy, I’m growing. Growing pains, I said in my last post, were a thing of 2011, and it already feels like they’re going to be even stronger this year.
I try to create narratives out of my life: I’m the protagonist, of course, and there are antagonists and various story arcs and things add up and loose ends get tied up. But then, memory doesn’t work in a linear way and as soon as I think I have it figured out I find more loose ends — like the time when I was in seventh grade and went to piano camp and all the boys snuck into the girls’ cabin, one per each bunk, except for mine cuz there was one more girl than boy and I was a goody-two-shoes; and then the time I played soccer in fifth grade and the boys all made fun of me and told me I kicked like a girl and I cried and didn’t go back; and the time I gave a boy a blowjob because I went to a party with someone who didn’t tell me it was a party for all the “smart girls” to give all the “popular boys” blowjobs; and the time I made out with my second cousin at my great-aunt’s funeral — things that I’d forgotten about, things that don’t make sense to me, things that I want to place and tie up in an ugly box with a piece of twine and throw away or maybe in a pretty box with tissue paper and a bow but either way I don’t want to deal with them because I want everything to make sense, because I spend so much time trying to make it all make sense, because I want to know who I am and what the hell I’m doing.
What do you do with all that? What do I do with all that?
Yesterday, ML and I celebrated having been together for two years. Two years! It’s so strange to think about that. Two years was about how long my previous relationship was (two years and a month, actually, to be precise), and that one was starting to crumble well before the two-year mark. And here we are, rock solid, living together, supporting each other through our respective endeavors, fucking our way through our busy lives :)
I wrote her a letter yesterday, a love letter I guess, and emailed it to her. It’s not particularly poetic or articulate, but it’s the way I feel I guess.
I thought of writing you a handwritten letter but I know handwritten stuff is something that I’m more attached to than you are… and typing is easier than writing, anyway ;) And I don’t know if this is supposed to be a love letter, or what, but I knew that I wanted to write something for you today, it being two years now that we’ve been together and all. I can’t believe it’s been two years already; two years and this is still the best relationship I’ve ever been in and it still feels rock solid and I increasingly can’t imagine my life without you. It’s scary, you know, but there’s something so comforting and expansive about it too. Expansive meaning, I don’t know, that it just doesn’t feel constrictive to me. Some people talk about feeling stuck in long-term relationships but to me it feels like the opposite, it feels like I’ve got something that enables me to live my life more fully and supports me along the way. You do that for me. You make me feel loved and supported and unconditionally appreciated and all of that has helped me become a more confident, more loving and trusting, more self-aware person. And you? I love your clutter, I love how your mind that utterly baffles me is able to focus so intently on what you’re passionate about and care for, I love how you look at me with your big, dark eyes and how you fall asleep with your body pressed into mine. I love that you try so hard to accommodate my tidy streak, and I love that you remind me–daily–that a bit of mess is perfectly ok. I love that you let me cook for you and fret over you, and I love how you indulge my weird whims. I love your body, your skin, your posture, your head tilting to accommodate your hair, your smile. You’re so fucking beautiful. I love your music and how much you want it, how it drives you. I love how loyal you are and loving, not just to me but to everyone. You’re so patient with me and kind and I couldn’t be in better hands. You really take care of me, you make me feel beautiful. I love you, baby, I am so incredulous that here we are two years in, no signs of stopping. Here’s to two more, and then some :) Love, me
During the day yesterday, she sent me an email telling me to meet her at 7:45pm at 2695 Mission Street, but I wasn’t to look up what it was, just show up there. So I did, and as soon as I hit the block I knew where she was taking me — the Mission Bar, where we met. It was so sweet. She had flowers for me — not roses, since that’s cliched, but pretty wine-red flowers (I’m horrible with plant names). And then we went and got dinner at this Turkish restaurant on Guerrero, which was yummy and supplied ample leftovers for lunch today. And, of course, we had sex. I *almost* didn’t let her actually fuck me, in the spirit of the anniversary and all, since two years ago, the first time we hooked up, I wouldn’t let her get any further than the waistline of my pants (though I did assure her at the time that I was sopping wet ;) ), but in the end I gave in. After *much* persuasion ;)
I’m still here, you guys, promise. I know I’ve been hardly around, I’m still trying to navigate my time with a new job plus school and it’s hard!!!! But I have no plans to abandon this space. Just be patient :)
I’ve been away for the past week and a half. I’m finally back (sort of), and I am so ready for my life to resume as normal.
Last Sunday, I went to Gold Country with my family. It was beautiful. We were in a cabin about 20 miles away from Jackson, a quaint old gold rush town in the foothills of the Sierras. The weather was perfect — temperatures in the 80s, no humidity, not a cloud in the sky. There was a family of deer that lived about 50 feet from our cabin, and they would casually look up from munching leaves when we came near and then disinterestedly return to their meal. There was a swimming hole in a creek about ten minutes away, and we spent an afternoon there alternately baking in the sun on the rocks by the creek and jumping in the bitingly cold water from rocks 30 feet high. One day, we went for a hike at Devil’s Lake — it was about 4 miles to the lake, and we didn’t see a single other person that day. The trail took us up up up into the mountains and the cool lake was very welcome when we finally reached it. It’s amazing how much land there is that’s isolated — I forget that, living in the city. We took turns cooking there, so the first night was my night and I got to cook for someone other than just ML. I kept thinking that I was making too much food, but apparently 6 people can eat a lot more than 2 people can! I roasted fingerling potatoes with fresh rosemary, made a green bean and cherry tomato salad with spring onion and a light balsamic vinaigrette, and chicken marinated in lemon and garlic with a spring onion, garlic, ginger, and lemon sauce to spoon on top. Fresh fruit for dessert. I love California and its agricultural bounty! I got to read a lot too, being disconnected from the internet and my phone. Four days without being able to check my email once! I hope there will always be places on the earth that signals and cables can’t access.
And then the very same day I came back from the mountains, ML and I flew to Vermont for her sister’s wedding.
I had no idea what to expect from the wedding. I knew that it was the first time anyone in her family aside from her parents and sister were seeing her in the knowledge that she was gay. I knew that I would probably be under a bit of scrutiny because of that, though not nearly as much scrutiny as she would be under. I knew that there would be people there who would potentially be uncomfortable with us. I knew that I have ambivalent feelings about marriage, and that the last wedding I went to (of one of my best friends from childhood) felt contrived and, for me, uncomfortable. I knew that ML’s sister (who is younger than she is by a few years) is a darling, but is also pretty foreign to me. She’s 24 years old and has a career, a husband, a dog, a perfect apartment… It’s a life that sort of baffles me. So straightforward. So straight. I was a bit apprehensive about the wedding, to be frank.
But it was absolutely beautiful. A few minor bumps (throwing up after brunch the first morning because I’d been on a red-eye and hadn’t slept and the food was too much for my delicate system!, one of ML’s family’s close friends not being able to look me in the eye through an entire evening the night before the rehearsal dinner, having my feelings hurt – unintentionally – by ML’s mom the morning of the wedding, etc.), but otherwise — it was kind of indescribable. The couple obviously love each other a lot, and everyone was full of love and glowing with joy. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true. No one, aside from the one family friend, was remotely weird to me, and in fact people seemed to make an effort to be nice. The wedding was at a gorgeous lakeside location and the ceremony was simple and personal. Unlike the last wedding, this one wasn’t remotely contrived.
I did feel a bit uncomfortable. It was a bit melancholy, actually, just knowing that our wedding would be different. Of course most of the ways it would be different would be intentional, and thus would be better for us. But other ways are just side effects of queerness — the love and joy from all the guests at this wedding wouldn’t be as effortless at our (hypothetical) wedding. Of course, we wouldn’t have to invite people who would have a hard time feeling effortless about it, but then we’d be missing half of the people in our lives who we love. How do you get around that? How do you have a wedding that has everyone you love and also know that everyone there is unadulteratedly loving you and supporting you and excited and happy for you… In my family, at least, I know that that’s not quite possible. Almost, but not quite.
But. This wedding also made me want one. ML’s sister and her now-husband have been together now as long as ML and I have. (Yep, they got engaged after about 4 months of dating!) It was hard to be at that wedding and not think “this could be us getting married.” Not that we would’ve had the same wedding, but you know what I mean. I know that we love each other as much as the bride and groom love each other. I know that we have an awesome relationship. And there was something (ick alert) kind of transcendent and magical about watching the two of them make vows to each other in front of everyone they love. It felt so authentic and real and significant. I want that. And being there, it was hard not to want it now. It sorta made me feel like, if they’re doing it now, why shouldn’t we?
The truth is, I do feel ready to marry her in a way. I feel certain about her. I don’t think it’s possible to be certain about anyone forever. I think that contemplating the notion of “forever” in general — with regard to relationships or not — is dizzying. You can’t know about the future, in any regard, and that’s why trying to be certain about something in the future feels so scary. But I’m certain now. And day by day I’m more and more certain. Not certain that she’s my forever-girl, but that she’s my girl. Am I making any sense? But then the thing is, there’s no rush to get married. It’s important to me, someday, and it was a fun party and I love the idea of everyone getting together to help us celebrate each other, but that can be anytime and hopefully it will only happen once in my life so why get it over with? Anticipation is always almost as fun as the thing you’re anticipating, anyway. Plus, I have some things I have to do. Grad school starts on Friday. And before then is my birthday — tomorrow :)
Over a late breakfast of salsa scrambled eggs, toast, and sliced strawberries, we’re listening to NPR and sipping breakfast tea. Occasionally, we murmur commentary to each other on what we’re listening to. My mind wanders from the latest Energy Bill updates, and I look across the table and suddenly feel absurdly lucky. Her head is tilted, her eyes askance as she listens to (and grows indignant at) the radio, and I fleetingly feel like I just woke up from a long dream and this, this, is what is real. Out loud I say, “I’m so lucky,” and her focus shifts to me. She shakes her head affectionately and cracks up. “You’re a weird one,” she says, “I love you.”
We’re at a giant thrift store together, sorting through all the junk to find a few things to take home. She heads for the t-shirts, I dive into the sundresses. Ten minutes later, I’ve scoured the racks, have a few picks, and the first thing I do is stand up on my tip-toes, crane my neck so I can see over the racks, and look for her. I don’t see her right away. But after a few seconds, her purple hoodie catches my eye and I feel a wave of … I don’t know what, exactly. Familiarity, comfort, warmth, affection, love, security, and (dare I say?) a mild surge of arousal, all wrapped up in one feeling that doesn’t have a single name but it should. All of that, just from alighting my eyes on her in a crowded room. Do other beings have the capacity to feel this way? If not, why do we humans? Where does it come from?
I’m lying in bed, trying to fall asleep. I have to get up in the morning to go into the law firm to do some contract work, so I couldn’t go out with her and some friends. That’s fine anyway, because I read a bit, watched a bit of a movie I knew she didn’t want to watch, ate nutella out of the jar with a spoon, and took a bath. It was nice to have the evening to myself. But I can’t sleep without her in bed next to me, big spoon to my little. I slip in and out of half-consciousness, restless, unsettled, waking with a start at every noise, thinking maybe it’s her. She comes in, finally, around 2:30. She sits down on the bed to take off her shoes. “Hi,” I say, mustering all my sleepy energy to squeak out the single syllable. “Awwww you’re awake!” she says, “hi cutie!!” She goes out to brush her teeth, and I prep myself for Sleep Position, turning onto my side and curling up. Soon she’s curled up behind me, and I finally feel the heaviness of sleep settling in. “Did you have fun?” I ask. “Yep!” she says, “but I missed you the whole time.” Not melancholy, just a sweet matter of fact. “Me too.”
This is my life these days. Sometimes I think conflict (in my relationship or just in my life in general) is what most moves me to write. If that’s true, then that’s too bad, because moments like these are just as worthy of being captured.
When my parents separated last fall, I learned a few things. Having been together for 30 years, their marriage was finally crumbling, and my siblings and I were witness to it. My first lesson: people don’t change. You can’t get together with someone and think, “I could be with this person forever if [fill in the blank]. I could love this person if she resolved her anger issues. I could be happy with this person if she learned how to give me compliments once in a while. If.” Because my mom married my dad with some major “if” clauses, and guess what? He didn’t change.
You know what, though? I’m amending that lesson now, because I’ve finally figured out that people do change. People can change.
I realized it yesterday evening. I had to go in to my old office yesterday, somewhat last minute, to do some highly confidential translation work that couldn’t be done on my home computer. I was able to leave around 5, stopped at a market for a few things on my way home, and started right in on cooking dinner when I got home around 5:45, expecting that ML would be home shortly thereafter (she typically gets home by 6). At 6:15 I get a text from her that she’d run into a friend of hers in the neighborhood of her office and was just finishing up a drink with her, and would be on her way home soon, and did I need her to pick anything up at the store?
My reaction: Oh that’s lovely that she ran into her friend! What a pleasant surprise. Let’s see, do I need anything? Nope… I already picked up what I needed. So I guess she’ll be home around 7 then… so I can pause dinner and take some time to find a B&B for our one-night city escape next weekend!
A lot of you might be sitting there thinking “ok……..” but trust me. Having that reaction without trying, without needing to convince myself of it, and without even being conscious really of what I was thinking — that’s huge for me.
You see, even just last year, my inner control freak would’ve been freaking out at that situation, and that reaction might’ve looked something like this: Wait, what? She’s having a drink with a friend? And she didn’t even tell me right away? So here I am sitting at home waiting for her and she hasn’t even left North Beach yet? Why didn’t she tell me 45 minutes ago? Is there something wrong? Is she pulling away from me?” etc. etc. etc. That’s probably a bit exaggerated, but it wouldn’t have been out of the realm of possibilities.
So what’s happened in a year? I’ve changed. Primarily, I’ve learned a lot about trust, and above all I really trust that she loves me, and that that isn’t changing. So I don’t need to have freak-out reactions, because I know intuitively that they’re baseless. And I’ve learned that by trial and error, by having freak-outs and being proven wrong because she loved me enough to be steady even in the face of my insecurity. I’ve learned that it’s better, more productive, to coax myself out of the freak-out before she even sees it, because it’s not worth bringing her down. I love her too much for that. And by learning how to do that, I realized yesterday that I’m not as much of a control freak anymore. I can let things go. But not only can I let things go — because that implies that it’s something I’m holding onto in the first place — I realized that there are some things that I’m just not even holding onto anymore. They don’t matter. Being the master of every detail in every situation doesn’t matter.
And wow, people. I can’t even tell you how happy and proud it makes me that I’m gradually becoming a better person. Don’t they say that people in a healthy relationship will bring out each other’s strengths and help make each other better people? I don’t think I ever really knew how true that could be. And it feels so fucking awesome.
So, that lesson one. It’s not “people don’t change.” It should be “you can’t force people to change for you.” Because I am living proof that people can, people do change. It just has to come from inside.
There are always going to be bad days, of course, and it just so happened that Tuesday was one of them. After a busy week, an even busier weekend, and then a late evening on Monday with friends over for dinner, I think the cards were stacked against me.
Settling into a semblance of a routine has been tricky. Am I unemployed? If I’m unemployed, then I ought to treat my days as if I were employed, because being unemployed sounds irresponsible and unproductive. If I’m unemployed, I ought to schedule my days full of Things To Do and be disciplined about getting it done. Or … am I on vacation? If I’m on vacation, then I ought to relax as much as I want, do whatever I want, and do so unapologetically. I’m sure what I’m looking for is a happy medium of the two (I am unemployed, sure, but I’m also on fucking vacation!), and just haven’t managed to land there yet. Until Tuesday, I’d been treating my days as if I were unemployed — sitting down every morning with my planner and my master to-do list to figure out what I needed to do that day and when I would do it. And then I was rushing around all day trying to get it all done, and would wind up feeling anxious in the evening – because I still wasn’t getting everything done.
What the hell was on my to do list? Um, let’s see. Trips to various grocery stores to stock up on pantry items. Locksmith. Bike shop. Dentist. Post office. Dry cleaner. Back to the dry cleaner. Consignment store to sell leftover clothes from yard sale. Statistics. Call Grandma. Send Dad birthday card. Talk to grad school re financial aid. Also, I’m still working irregularly for my former employer doing German translation stuff for a few of their cases, and last week, that ended up being about 20 hours (this week, about 10). OH, and have I mentioned UNPACKING AND ORGANIZING? Right, except that last thing has totally taken the shaft in the face of all these bloody errands.
So, anyway. Tuesday. I was supposed to go to a counselor support meeting for the rape crisis center I work for, except I was so overwhelmed and hadn’t even finished the main thing on my to-do list that day — ORGANIZE THE FUCKING CLOSETS — that I threw up my hands in despair and didn’t go to the meeting. Instead, I made summer squash soup because otherwise the squash was going to go bad. And then I talked to ML at work and she said “let’s just relax tonight! let’s just cuddle and watch The Wire and have sex!” And I was all YES. PLEASE. Except that when she got home I was still cooking, and I still hadn’t organized the fucking closets, and I started taking my general anxiety out on her. I felt like I was doing so much, so much that I wasn’t even able to do it all, and so I still felt like I wasn’t doing enough. And I started blaming her for not telling me that I was doing enough. And so I was irritable and mopey all evening instead of cuddly and relaxy. I felt like I needed some kind of assurance that I was doing okay, that I didn’t need to do anymore, but I didn’t know how to ask her to give me that assurance and so instead my overwhelmed brain decided that the only way to get that assurance was to keep doing more so that she’d tell me to stop. So… I kept doing more. I puttered around in the kitchen while she was doing dishes, and she told me to stop. But I didn’t believe her. So I kept puttering. And then after I puttered I went and started throwing stuff around in the closets. Getting more and more overwhelmed and frustrated the whole time. And in general, the more frustrated I get, the less able I am to articulate why I’m frustrated, so this was all just a baaaaad baaaaaad downward spiral.
Suffice it to say, the cuddling was unsatisfactory, the sex was non-existent, and we only watched 15 minutes of The Wire before going to bed. I probably broke out in tears three or four times over the course of the evening. ML is so good at making me laugh and cheering me up, so her efforts did temporarily break me out of my funk, but I was already at a point where I didn’t really know what was wrong and didn’t know how to snap out of it. So I went to sleep feeling dejected and disconnected.
I woke up on Wednesday feeling similarly. I watched ML get ready to leave for work, already feeling bereft and still feeling sad and disconnected from the day before. I still felt like I needed assurance that I was doing okay. I didn’t know how to shake it.
So, ML left, I breakfasted, and then I finally decided that that would be the day. The day to scrap the planner and the to-do list and just do what my heart felt like doing, because I needed to kill this anxiety.
And so? I organized the closets. I emptied all our clothes our of our dresser and our two closets and the basked of clean laundry and a big bin of clothes that hadn’t been put away yet, and I spent all day heaping and folding and hanging and shuffling around and finally, by early afternoon, the closets were organized. And you know what? That did it. My funk was killed. That’s all it took. Organizing the fucking closets. ML called me when she was leaving work and all she had to hear was my bright “hiiiii!” before she knew that I was all better. “What happened to YOU?” she asked. “Did you clean the closets or something?”
And now I think I’m going to scrap the planner and the master to-do list and instead just start each morning with a cup of tea and the question, “what do I most feel like doing today?” After all, this period of unemployed vacation is temporary. I really ought to just take full advantage of it for what it is.
Spring seems to have FINALLY reached San Francisco. Rain in June is not why I moved here. If I wanted rain in June, I’d be living in Portland. This past weekend, though, was unapologetically gorgeous. So gorgeous, in fact, that I got quite a nasty sunburn on Saturday (and I put on sunscreen! I swear!). Weekends like this are good reminders that doing things spontaneously and doing things slightly out of my comfort zone are two of the best ways of feeling whole.
See, the thing is, when you ask me what my vision of happiness looks like, my brain calls up a quiet morning in a sunlit kitchen, drinking tea, eating a warm scone and reading a book. Fast forward an hour and I’m baking bread or shelling peas while listening to NPR Morning Edition. Then in the afternoon maybe I’m having a picnic in the park with a few of my favorite people. These images make me feel calm and happy and balanced and excited. Which, admit it, makes me sound kind of boring, right? I’m such a homebody!
Obviously, if I only ever did the things that my image of happiness and “the perfect day” calls up, I would be boring. Really, really boring. And I would also be unhappy. Too much of a good thing is still too much and the thing isn’t so good anymore. And so this past weekend, which was pretty much the antithesis of calm and peaceful and domestic, and which lacked any sort of lingering over tea or reading or cooking, was entirely perfect. In such an unexpected way!
Saturday: yard sale with my neighbor (formerly: roommate). Got up early, hauled stuff to the corner, which has a lot of foot traffic coming from Dolores Park, and sat out all day negotiating prices with people for my stuff. As someone who is not a natural salesperson, this was harder than it probably sounds. I hate asking people for money for my stuff. My impulse is always, “oh just have it!” I made a mistake like this early in the morning, when I sold a pair of pearl earrings for $0.50 (yes, really, and I STILL am yelling at myself over that), and then decided I had to toughen up. I still think I undersold most of my stuff, but I’ll just accept that at least my goal of de-cluttering was met! And I did make $200.
Then on Saturday night, my friend was celebrating her birthday at New Wave City at the DNA Lounge. Cover is $12 after 10 but $7 before 10, so, yes, I went to a dance party before 10, knowing full-well that I’d be there until closing at 2. This took a lot of “get yourself off your ass” pep talk from myself because (a) I was dehydrated and sunburned from earlier so wasn’t sure I would survive 5 hours of dancing, and (b) I’m not a big partier anyway and it’s easy to convince myself that staying home or going to a wine bar or having late-night burritos are all better ideas than going dancing (see above), and (c) ML (my lady) was mixing with her band and wouldn’t be there until much later. BUT! I did not succumb to my lazy voice and I drank some water, threw on something danceable, and headed out to meet up with my friends. And you know what? Throw two drinks in me (gin gimlet and a greyhound) and I can dance all night.
Sunday: Woke up around 10:30 after having finally landed in bed around 4, slightly achy but (thanks to my impeccable foresight) not hungover, since I started drinking water instead of booze around midnight. We lazed sleepily for a few minutes until ML said: “Hey! Let’s go for a hike today!” My immediate reaction was “YES!” My secondary reaction was “wait! but! I wanted to have a lazy Sunday morning! eat brunch! go to the park and chill in the sun! do some organizing around the house! ahhhh!” My tertiary reaction, after some back-and-forth with my sensible side, was “SCREW IT! Let’s go!” So we booked a Zipcar, lathered up with sunscreen, and headed north across the Golden Gate Bridge. We ended up hiking up Mt. Tam from Stinson Beach, and though we didn’t make it all the way up (we’d gotten rather a late start, and I was feeling still dehydrated and sun-stroked from the day before), we did get some spectacular views on the way. We had dinner at a beach cafe before heading back to the city. Accomplished? Nothing on our to-do lists, but we DID manage to get some exercise, some sun, some fresh air, and above all some spontaneous fun. On our way back, we realized it felt like we’d been away for a lot longer than a day, and agreed that we need to do this more often. Who knew it doesn’t even need to be an overnight to feel like a getaway? I’d always thought you needed a night for the hot sex. Turns out, the hot sex can happen afterwards in your very own bedroom :)
Today, I’m sore, my shoulders are peeling, and I have a lot to do. We’re having friends over for dinner tonight and all of the unpacking and organizing stuff that didn’t happen yesterday needs to happen (or at least superficially happen) this afternoon. Also: post office, bank, dry-cleaner’s, locksmith. Oh, and, cooking! Right. But I don’t mind! I’m still high on an awesome weekend. Good to have that reminder that sometimes the most fun can be had doing things that don’t immediately come to mind when you ask yourself what you feel like doing.
PS: Right now, I’m on gchat with ML (who’s at work) and we’re talking about having sex to one of the arias from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde which, she says, is like an “operagasm.” … Don’t ask.
PPS: How was YOUR weekend?
Amidst all my excitement about this summer and all the potential it carries, I have one nagging worry. I’m worried that my copious amounts of free time, most of which will probably be spent by myself, will put a strain on my relationship, that when she’s home I’ll be wanting to hang out while she may often have other things to do. Maybe this isn’t so much a worry as it is something to look out for and be mindful of this summer.
As it is right now, I do sometimes feel as though we don’t have enough together time. I work a lot of hours, take burlesque classes, volunteer on the crisis hotline, have family obligations once in a while and statistics homework to do, and have various appointments that sometimes inevitably take up evenings and weekends. She, meanwhile, has band practice generally one evening every week and one full day into the night every weekend, plus the occasional late evening at work or evening/weekend appointment. All this PLUS spending time with friends at least weekly means that … we really don’t have that much plain old hangout time. We spend a lot of time together, but it’s often just in that hour before bed when we pop in the latest disc from our Netflix queues, watch for a bit, and then have a quickie before going to sleep. It’s been even tougher lately with her new work schedule, which has her (and thus, often, me) getting up at 6:15am, rather than 7:35 as it used to be — a change which necessitates an earlier bedtime, obviously. But since my work schedule hasn’t changed (yet! ha!), and I’m still getting out of work at 6 or 6:30 on a good day, our evenings have been shortened.
And, to me, it doesn’t feel like enough. To me, it feels like our sex has stopped progressing — we do the tried and true, rather than the new and unknown. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I realize — hell, we’re still having sex at least 3 times a week, usually 4-5, and it can’t always be new and unknown (nor would I want it to be! familiar is often exactly what I most desire). But it’s at a point now where I do feel like we don’t have the time to spend with each other working on our relationship. The time we spend together gets filled up with having our relationship — watching movies, fucking, cuddling, cooking/eating, giving each other footrubs, talking about our schedules, decompressing after our respective days, sleeping — because those are usually the most pressing wants. We want to relax after work, we really want to hear about each other’s days and all the things going on that are bothering us or exciting us. We want to zone out and watch movies and curl up together just feeling each other’s bodies. And we want to have sex, to connect physically, erotically.
But I think a lot of that stuff is very short-term gratification. It’s what we think we want to do right NOW because NOW I’m tired and want to relax and chat about regular stuff. It’s comfortable, and cozy. But to me, always indulging that immediate sense of relationship laziness starts to take a toll. Sexually, I start to feel like many of my more elaborate or scarier desires are slipping into the realm of “fantasy,” rather than the realm of “to do this weekend.” Other than sexually, I start to feel like the more we do the same things with our time together, the less able we are to do other things. So maybe this is about spontaneity — making sure we keep infusing the Regular with the New and Exciting. And this spontaneity has to be something that we work on together.
I’m not sure how to start bringing more of an Our Relationship Is a Project that We Work on Together mentality into our routine, especially because (1) we’re both so busy doing our own personal projects that we really love and that really fulfill us, and (2) I think the Project Relationship mentality is more of something I want than something she wants. She, I think, is perfectly happy to just go along the way we’ve been going along. She likes comfort and routine, and doesn’t like feeling like she has to work on yet another thing in her life. I, on the other hand, really like to have relationship check-ins, and to discuss what’s working and what isn’t, figure out how to fix what isn’t and congratulate each other for what is, and to set little goals, and to be intentional about things that we do. In fact I start to feel anxious and unsettled if we don’t do those things. And I know that because that’s not a high priority for her there will always be some give and take on that front. But it’s starting to feel more pressing for me lately.
To bring that back around to my worry about this summer, the worry I have, I guess, is mostly that I’ll have a whole lot more time to devote myself to our Relationship Project than she will (I mean, I’m hoping to write here every day, and oftentimes, even this is, in a way, part of our Relationship Project), and that that will start to build up in me as this tension that isn’t getting resolved because there just isn’t time.
(What’s a good balance, anyway? How can you find the spot between co-dependent and over-committed to other things? Is it better to spend a lot of time on our own things so that we’re whole complete individuals without needing the other to complete us? Or is it better to spend a lot of time on each other, so that we feel unity and affinity? So that these anxieties don’t surface? Clearly I think a balance is necessary, but what is that balance? And at what point do we have to start sacrificing one thing or the other in order to strike it?)
So, I think it’s good that I’ve identified this issue as something that might come up for me this summer. I still have enough time to work on coming up with ways to avoid that surfacing, and strategies for combatting it if it does. Like if I set goals for myself every day, enough to keep my on my toes and sufficiently busy, then that should help. Spending time actively out and about with other people will help, too. And I think I’d like to bring up with her the idea of committing to eat dinner together whenever possible, shutting off all our other projects at least an hour before we go to bed whenever possible, and identifying and scheduling Together time as separate from time we’re together but working on separate things, so that we can make sure we’re staying attentive to each other and our relationship. And I just need to remember, too, that it’s much more of a relationship Want, for me, to be intentionally thinking about this stuff than it is for her, and that that doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about the relationship as much as I do.
Last night, we climbed into bed much later than we’d planned, both tired and already bracing ourselves against the Monday morning alarm clock. We settled into what we call our Sleep Position: big spoon (her) and little spoon (me), her arm wrapped around me. It’s become so much of a habit that I hardly think of it anymore. But last night, after a few moments, she pipes up: “Do you like sleeping like this?” “Yes, baby, I do.” “Why?” “It makes me feel safe, and snug, and warm.” “Okay. Just checking.”
Snug as two bugs in a rug.
I am very happy. Having been sitting with my decision to stay here and go to CIIS for a few days now, I can honestly say that I’m just plain happy about it. And that’s how I know it’s the right thing. I read the blog Zen Habits, which, for those unfamiliar with it, is a lifestyle blog of sorts — for living life simply and productively. I take some of it and leave some of it (barefoot walking? no thank you, plus, I have massive foot problems and need arch support), but one post this past week was particularly apt for me: The Secret to Making Life Decisions. It went up after I made my decision, or else I might think it’d influenced me. Instead, I get the nice feeling of knowing I made my decision all by myself, without any help, plus this sense of validation afterwards:
We’ve been brought up in a very left-brain-directed world, where the traditional decision-making strategy is a very logical process that involves listing each option, listing the pros and cons of each option, and then weighing up your lists in order to make your decision. This can be useful in very stable, predictable environments where we have all the information we need and in some business environments where we’re solving simple problems, but it isn’t the most effective way to make your most important life decisions . . . . In an information-rich world where we have abundant options, when it comes to making important life decisions, we need to be able to synthesize lots of information, see the big picture, spot themes and relationships, intuitively sense what information is most important to us, and invent possibilities that don’t even exist yet. These are all right-brain-directed thinking skills that we can employ through our emotional navigation system.
Most people treat their emotions as though they’re purely incidental and sometimes even a hindrance in life. Emotions are often side-lined as impulsive and troublesome parts of ourselves that have to be controlled and are of little value to us. Actually, our emotions, both negative and positive, are all perfectly safe and healthy and serve us in incredible ways, especially when it comes to making important life decisions. Every emotion you experience is a clear signal to help you differentiate between the expectations and demands being placed on you and what’s truly important to your Essential Self.
As a chronic list-maker, I always tend to stay emotionally uninvolved with my decisions. Emotions are too messy, too disorganized. I like things to be organized! Straightforward! Clear! Who needs more confusion, you know? Let’s just be practical! But I had to follow my heart on this one, because no matter how many lists I made I wasn’t finding the answer. The answer wasn’t in line-by-line comparisons of program statistics or in budget spreadsheets analyzing the costs and benefits of each option. I really had to dig around and go with my gut feelings. And that wasn’t easy either, because, as I kept saying, “I have two guts! And they’re saying different things!” But I had to go with the one that was kicking me harder.
When I came home today, there was a beautiful vase of tulips on my kitchen table and a sweet note from my roommate, saying “Congratulations on your choice EVG! I’m glad we’ll get to keep you!” [My roommate, see, has airport codes for everybody in her life, and they come from a funny mix of our names, initials, random facts/qualities about us, and what sounds good. Apparently "Ee-Vee-Gee" has a nice ring to it? Her lover du jour, for example, is called "IPM": International Playboy of Mystery. Lol.]
Speaking of my roommate, though, I don’t think I’ll be staying here much longer. The lady and I have decided that June 1st will be our day. This afternoon, we went and looked at a place not too far from where we both currently live (we’re not really looking at places yet, but this one just sounded so lovely that we had to go see). It’s gorgeous and affordable. Hardwood floors, giant windows, lots of closet space, perfect location, and a HUGE backyard with a garden and a patio all belonging just to the one flat. Amazing. We’re going to apply and see if a May 15 moving date would be too late for them. We’ll see.
And suddenly, after typing that out, I feel all jittery again, just like that. Like, wait, what? We’re moving in together? Ahhhhhhh, wait, no, what?! Can’t do it! Stop! Scary! What if we hate each other? Where will we go when we need space! What if we lose all our friends! Is this really the right thing to do? Quick! Let’s make some lists! Let’s do a cost-benefit analysis! GET ME A SPREADSHEET, STAT.
I guess I’ll just have to go with my heart on this one, too.
I’m sure you’re all waiting with baited breath to hear about my decision regarding graduate school. And I’ve (almost) made the decision. I’ve got one more thing to do before it’s final, and I’m doing it tomorrow. So barring something rather extreme happening tomorrow, my decision is made.
I’m staying here.
Most of you, in the comments on my previous post about graduate school, said “go to LA! you’ll do great!” And you’re right, I would do great; I’d make friends, I’d do well in the program, I’d enjoy the lovely weather, and I’d have an adventure. And I’d graduate with an MPP from UCLA after two years. Exciting! I know.
But I’m not doing it. Instead I’m going to graduate in two years with an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Social Transformation from CIIS. And let me be clear: I am not doing this because it is the safer option. I am not doing it because it’s more comfortable to stay here, or because it’s easier not to push myself. In fact, it is probably the less safe option. It would be easier to just go with UCLA because it’s more socially normal. Because, you know, who in her right mind turns down a fellowship from a highly regarded university to pay to attend an unheard-of social justice program?
I do. And I swear to you I am in my right mind.
I am not choosing CIIS just because it allows me to stay in San Francisco, though that is appealing, to be sure. And if it had been the other way around — leave San Francisco to go to CIIS, stay in San Francisco to attend highly regarded university with a fellowship — I probably would have made the opposite decision, no questions asked. I would’ve stayed and attended said Highly Regarded University. No questions asked.
But having to make the decision that was actually in front of me really forced me to ask questions, and I’m glad, because I probably would’ve neglected to ask them otherwise. Because they’re tough questions, and I tend to like to ignore tough questions. I’m very good at evading things that force me to look at what I want, because so often, I don’t really know. But this time I had to. And these are the questions I asked:
What do I want out of my life?
How will I get there?
What do I want out of my life? I want happiness. Obviously. I want to be doing work that fulfills and inspires me. I want to be doing work that reminds me, when the alarm clock goes off, that, oh yes, I do actually want to get out of bed. More specifically, I want to be doing work in which I have autonomy, can use creativity, and in which my whole self is embraced as having relevance to the work I do. I want to be doing work that is for the greater social good, and no it is not because I’m a young idealist who wants to change the world, it is because I know that that is the kind of work that makes me care. I want to be doing work in which I am a decision-maker. I want to be doing work that stimulates my mind, challenges me every day, and connects me with others. I want to be doing work that completes my life, rather than work that takes away from my life. That’s the work I’m doing now, and I never want to be there again. I sit at work sometimes and wonder how people can do the work they do and take themselves seriously as human beings. I never want to wonder that again in relation to the work I’m doing. Never.
I also want to be doing work that draws on my strengths. I’m good at connecting with people in a genuine way. I’m good at organizing (understatement of the day), good at logical thinking (have I ever mentioned here that my favorite class as an undergraduate was Symbolic Logic?). I love writing, especially about things that relate to queer identities, gender, social identities, social justice, and my personal experiences with all of these things.
And though I’m not an expert on careers or anything, I look at all of that above and I think that maybe, just maybe, I ought to be a professor. Boring, I know, because that’s what both of my parents did, and don’t you think I could be a bit more creative than that? And also, ouch, because it’s so hard to get a tenure track job these days, and all that. Plus I have all sorts of qualms about the academic industrial complex, as I like to call it, which I won’t go into right now because I’ll potentially have the rest of my life to do just that. But it would be a job that would allow me to pursue my research interests, connect with people, write, be challenged. And get summers off (score!). (Did I forget to mention that as one of the things I want out of life?) But anyway regardless of whether I actually become a professor, that’s the kind of lifestyle I can envision for myself.
And how do I get there? Well, I’d need a Ph.D. And I’m a whole lot more likely to end up in a Ph.D. program from an MA than from an MPP. Not to mention that classes in the MA program are more academic (“Critical History of the Human Sciences,” “Reading and Writing Culture”) than the professionally-oriented classes in the MPP program (“Management Challenges and Tools for the Nonprofit Sector”). And also not to mention that I love the mission of CIIS’s MA program: to facilitate self-reflection on our own cultural presuppositions as a prerequisite for sustained engagement with the realities of difference and culture, and to focus on practices of creative intervention by developing skills in intercultural communication, critical social analysis, emancipatory research, strategic thinking, and alliance building.
That is something that will get me out of bed in the morning. And it’s scary to go this route, for sure — as one of the professors told me in one of our several long conversations about what this degree would enable me to do, it is taking a risk. But the risk is not the program itself. The program itself is highly reputable in the world of academic social justice and human rights. The risk, she said, is in forcing myself to confront privilege. That is not something I can take lightly. But it is something that, deep down, I know is right for me.
Tomorrow, I will sit in on a seminar at the institute. And if it feels right to me, I’m all in.